May 2, 2023
China lifts grain self-sufficiency projections, aims to establish diversified food supply
China has significantly raised its grain self-sufficiency projections over the next decade by pledging to build a "diversified food supply system," a move that has the potential to impact corn and soybean farmers in the United States and rice exporters in Thailand and Vietnam.
The flagship Agricultural Outlook Report for 2023-32 by the country's Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs sets out China's plan to grow 88.4 of the grain – mainly referring to rice, wheat, corn and soybeans – it needs within a decade from the current level of 82%.
"The foundation of grain security will be consolidated steadily," it said, citing Beijing's efforts to tap growth potential by increasing farming acreage and also promoting higher-yield seeds, farming machinery and technology. "The agricultural trade structure will be changed significantly, with grain imports expected to fall 16% over the next 10 years."
China became the largest agricultural export market for the US last year, with exports reaching a record high of US$36.4 billion, including a record high soybean shipment value of US$16.4 billion, according to a report released by the United States Department of Agriculture's Foreign Agricultural Service in January.
"China does not have too much trouble with grain self-sufficiency now, but its soybean production is a more obvious shortcoming," said Weng Ming, a researcher at the Institute of Rural Development under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.
Domestic soybean production in China is set to grow at an annual rate of 7% over the next 10 years to lift the self-sufficiency ratio from 18.5% to 30%.
China's soybean imports could fall to 83.6 million tonnes by 2032, while corn imports would fall below seven million tonnes from last year's 20.6 million tonnes, the report estimated. Its soybean imports dropped by 5.6% year on year to 91.1 million tonnes last year, with Brazil providing 59.7% and the US at 32.4%, according to China's Ministry of Commerce.
China's purchase of US corn dropped by a quarter to 14.9 million tonnes last year, or 72% of its total.
"Although we have seen many recent technological breakthroughs in China's agricultural sector, the biggest hurdle remains their practical application on farmland, and Beijing's policies need to be practically implemented in the countryside," Weng added.
Authorities have already pledged to ensure China has a total arable land of no less than 120 million hectares (297 million acres) in its 14th five-year plan for 2021-25 and to ensure food self-sufficiency as geopolitics have disrupted food supply chains and raised prices, while tensions with the West potentially threaten food imports.
The flagship agricultural outlook report for 2023-32 also outlined a plan to increase rice exports by 24% in the next 10 years, which could affect the likes of Thailand and Vietnam.
Meanwhile, China also plans to increase the self-sufficiency ratio of oil crops – including soybeans, peanuts, rapeseed and sesame – from 32% this year to 43.8% by 2032.
China has already increased its guarantee of seed supply by five percentage points to 75% in the last three years.
- South China Morning Post